American football beginners guide

American football beginners guide

Some of you might be new to the football world. Perhaps one of your children is playing for the first time on a team, or you just want to have a better understanding of the game while watching with your friends or family.

Don’t worry. Ryan at said this guide has you covered to help you better understand the basics so you can follow everything.

The Basics

What is the goal?

The objective of the game is moving the ball into the end zone of the opposing team to score a touchdown. The offense tries to advance down the field by passing or running the football. At the same time, the defense tries to stop the offense and gain control of the football.

What is the football field?

The football field is 53 yards wide and 100 yards long. The field has white markings called yard markers that help to track the football. However, the end zones are the most important areas of the field. That makes the field 10 yards longer beyond the goal lines which makes the total length 120 yards. The goalposts (also called uprights) are also in the end zones.

How long is a football game?

A football game is comprised of four 15-minute quarters (the quarters in high school games are 12 minutes long). There is also a halftime break. However, it takes more than 60 minutes to complete a game since the clock stops whenever there is a penalty, a team calls a time-out, a play goes out of bounds, on every incomplete pass, and at halftime. If the score is tied at the end of the 60-minute game, then the game will go into overtime.  

Positions and Players

There is a total of 53 players on the roster of an NFL team, while usually college teams range from 60 to 70 players. However, only 11 players on each team are on the field at any given time.

There are two units to tame, the defense and the offense.

The Offense

The team with control of the football has their offensive unit on the field, trying to move the football down the field and score a touchdown. Although there are a total of 11 offensive players on the football field, just the quarterback, running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers can legally handle the football.

The Defense

Whichever team doesn’t have control of the football has its defensive unit on the field. Their job is to prevent the offense from advancing toward the end zone that they are trying to defend.

Game Play

The offensive unit is given 4 chances to advance the football 10 yards, by either passing or running the all. Those attempts are called “downs.”  If they are successful in moving the ball 10 yards or more, they earn an additional first down and are given 4 more chances to advance the ball an additional 10 yards.

If they are unable to gain20 yards within four downs, then the opposing team is given possession. On fourth down, the ball is often kicked if they haven’t achieved 10 yards

Downs and yards are closely tracked throughout the game, and at the start of each play, you can see which down it is and the number of yards that the offense needs to achieve an additional first down. As an example, if the offense moves the football 4 yards on first down, that makes it 2nd and 6, which means the team has 6 yards remaining on second down to earn another first down.


Touchdown (six points)

To score a touchdown, a team must cross the opposing team’s goal line with the football, or collect or catch the ball inside the end zone.

Extra point(s) (one or two points)

One point is earned when the ball is kicked through the uprights following a touchdown. when the ball is passed or run into the end zone following a touchdown, then you earn two points

Field goal (three points)

Usually. a field goal is tried on fourth down when the kicker is close enough to his team’s end zone to successfully kick the football through the uprights or goal posts.

Safety (two points)

The defensive team is awarded a safety when an offensive team member with the football gets tackled inside his own end zone.

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